Postherpetic Neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia refers to lingering pain and skin sensitivity following a shingles outbreak. This pain can last anywhere from one month to several years. Postherpetic neuralgia is brought on by nerve damage and mostly affects people over 60. It ranges in severity and does not affect everyone who gets shingles. Shingles is a painful, uncomfortable rash that’s caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. The majority of people are exposed to the virus during childhood. With shingles, the virus resurfaces years later following many years of remaining dormant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three people in the U.S. will develop singles at some point.  

Symptoms for Postherpetic neuralgia

According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia include an aching, stabbing or burning sensation in the skin after a shingles outbreak. Some people report a tingly feeling in the skin similar to an electric shock. This leaves the person ultra-sensitive to touch and changes in temperature. The duration of these symptoms may vary. According to the UCSF Medical Center, the pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia can be intense enough to interfere with daily living, sleep and appetite. In fact, depression is actually a common side effect because people often feel socially isolated because of the pain.


As far as treatment is concerned, anticonvulsants, pain medications, numbing creams and electrical nerve stimulation are all common approaches. Lidocaine skin patches have been approved by the FDA to treat postherpetic neuralgia. Patients can also use skin patches that contain capsaicin – the hot-pepper compound found in jalapenos. According to the UCSF Medical Center, this can be a very effective pain relief option. Prevention is perhaps the best treatment. The NIH urges all adults over the age of 50 to get a herpes zoster vaccine to protect against shingles. In fact, it can reduce the risk of contracting shingles by approximately 50 percent.

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